PM refutes Iran claims he offered to mediate with Saudi Arabia
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri has strongly rejected claims by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s international affairs advisor Ali Akbar Velayati that Hariri offered to “mediate” in the ongoing dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
After Hariri said in a TV interview Sunday night that he had explicitly asked Velayati to stop Iran’s meddling in international affairs during a recent meeting in Beirut, Velayati responded Tuesday by labeling Hariri’s claims as “just Saudi dictations.”
The Iranian representative said, “The Saudis are not ready for Lebanon to be in a peaceful and stable state, and [for there to be] friendship between the Iranian and Lebanese people.”
“Such a conversation did not even happen and [our talk] was not sharp, nor full of threats and challenges,” he added, claiming Hariri “wanted to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia and we welcomed [this].”
Velayati also said that Tehran hoped Hariri would return to Lebanon and continue as prime minister “if Lebanese law allows.”
The two met in Beirut on Nov. 3, the day before Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh. In Hariri’s resignation speech, he blasted Iranian interference in the region, and in Lebanon through Hezbollah.
However, Velayati’s characterization of the meeting was rapidly dismissed by Hariri’s press office later Tuesday. A statement reported that “Hariri did not offer any mediation between any countries; rather, he told [Velayati] that Iran should halt its intervention in Yemen as a precondition to any improvement in its relations with Saudi Arabia.”
The statement underscored that, during the meeting, when Velayati suggested that the issue of the Yemen crisis would be a good starting point for dialogue, he responded “No, Yemen comes before the dialogue. I think that solving the problem in Yemen is the only way to start any dialogue between you and the kingdom.”
The statement clarified that this was Hariri’s personal opinion, not an official state position. – The Daily Star